[-empyre-] Sense as space

Gotman, Kelina kelina.gotman at kcl.ac.uk
Tue Oct 26 03:28:59 EST 2010

Hi Penny,
I just want to clarify one thing, which I found myself clarifying to Renate and Tim as well: it's only really a collective inasmuch as a whopping eight of us came together- with our wildly varying approaches to everything that the colloquium incorporated (and more)- to make this happen. I believe I'm the one who used the fateful term way back when we were first formulating some sort of paragraph mission statement, and immediately a huge debate arose. Some felt this was a collective of sorts, and others felt it was not. I situate myself in the latter camp, happy to have seen this thing happen, but not in any way attached to anything that could be qualified as a unified group or movement or collective etc. In many ways, the term is a misnomer, and has led to confusion along the way, which I'm sorry to see. We're rather quite an anarchic bunch, with huge differences of opinion and very varied backgrounds- a feat of its own when organising an event of this scale. There were eight of us on the organising committee, and I believe three for the first event at Cambridge (which only contributes to the extent that it hosted the first event). Lorna has been the initiator and the sole person to have served as an organiser for both editions. Other institutions to have lent their names offered support in various forms: Institut Telecom lent space and some funds; IRI lent space; ESAD lent student helpers and designers, etc. We've mostly done this on a shoestring, which was a feat of its own, and a lesson for what can be done with so little, and how challenging it is to work in the intersticial space betwixt and between regular conference venues and institutional machines, etc. (And interestingly how invested we are in these institutional machines ... something that has kept coming up, and which I find fascinating, though I don't quite know what to do with the information as of yet, or just what that information is... something about legitimacy, a trap - and trope - I think just about all of us have fallen into in some way, at some point).
Yves-Marie L'hour, who is a member of the committee, was able to secure the Pompidou space through his work there, and I think it was fabulous to have been able to work there for a whole day (most amazing was the 10PM rave party/active meditation a number of us attended... really very surreal, and I think kind of legendary).

I'm glad you met interesting people. I certainly have as well. Some members of the group- cluster- clump will be taking this on to New York next year, and picking up new folks along the way. In that sense, it's a collection of people, but nothing like an organised entity, and I really want to make that clear.
Opinions will differ on this, but I speak for myself and some others who see this primarily as a one-off, an event.
Decisions were made by the organising committee, that is the eight people who got involved, either from having attended or participated in the first event last year and expressed interest in making another one happen, or having otherwise been drawn into the cluster through a rather random process involving conversations across fields, etc. I'm not actually clear how we all got here (I wonder how I got here all the time), though we've done a lot to work together throughout and make it happen in spite of being so many, across three countries (France, UK, USA) and two languages.
So it's a morphing thing, a bit random, and very divergent, but the bottom line is that there was a committee of eight formed for the event, and to some extent that's the extent of the (perhaps misnamed) 'collective'.
I hope that answers some of your questions, though I'm afraid this is highly inconclusive.

I should also add that for those who do see this as a movement, with a vision for the future, and a mission of sorts, there are no closed doors to participating and getting involved in the next colloquium, or any other projects that might arise. I might direct you primarily to Lorna Collins and Bandy Lee, both of whom spoke to the Empyre list at the start of the month, and who should be able to tell you more (Bandy, Lorna, correct me on this if I'm wrong).
Jean-Luc Moriceau is also organising an event on "L'art du sens" at the IT next month, looking at sense-making and aesthetic theory in organisations. Hugo Letiche will be participating, and perhaps some others who were with us last week. I don't know details, but you can contact him if you're interested.

Alexander, thanks for your fine words on your art-making. Steve and I will get to discussing our work soon enough!

All best for now,


Dr. Kélina A. Gotman
Department of English
King's College London
Strand WC2R 2LS
kelina.gotman at kcl.ac.uk<mailto:kelina.gotman at kcl.ac.uk>
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7848 1773

From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [mailto:empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Penny Florence
Sent: 25 October 2010 10:24
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Sense as space

Hi All
I am still en route, feeling displaced in so many ways that I find it hard to focus. But I don't think this is the source of my feeling that the Making Sense event in Paris was unsatisfactory in more ways than not, some of them worrying.

There is an enormous amount of work in the general area of practice related research, almost none of which was referenced. Participants including me have long experience which could have been useful. I say this, not in the spirit of territorial claims for a disciplinary approach, but rather in terms of the proper academic research that the event ought to be. Academic research is not the other to practice. It is in uneasy and contested and sometimes productive tension with it. Potentially, Making Sense could have a contribution to make to this work. But not in its present form, which is highly questionable.

Why were there some overtly self-promotional and/or politico-social presentations which had no reflexivity or critical reflection whatsoever, and, worse, did not allow it? Why was there an attempt to suppress debate when dissent was expressed? If there was little political discussion in the formal part of the conference, it was because many participants quickly realized it would be closed out, and, frankly, it wasn't worth the effort in this arena.

I am not part of Making Sense. I simply attended a conference. Several statements were made in sessions about what 'Making Sense' might become, and if I'm being vague, it is because these statements were all completely impenetrable. This event is forming a poltical agenda whether everyone involved likes it or not. I do not like being co-opted into something undefined with some unclear future.

Some straightforward questions, the answers to which most academic conferences put up front in some way: Who exactly is on the collective? What roles did they play in the selection of papers? What is the editorial policy? How were decisions made? What exactly is the role of Cambridge University and other prestige institutions, and how far do they sanction it? What is the academic frame of reference, apart from keynote big names?

So I find myself in the unaccustomed position of defending academic convention. Sign of the times, perhaps. When something is under such threat as open academic research and debate now is, one come to realize its value.

I had been going to comment more specifically on the Stiegler contribution, but don't know whether to do so now. I'll think about it.

And I'll say how much I got from meeting some participants, and from their contributions, in spite of the stranger features of this strangest of conferences.
On 25 October 2010 00:01, Alexander Wilson <01ek at parabolikguerilla.com<mailto:01ek at parabolikguerilla.com>> wrote:
Hello Empyrecists,

Thanks Renate for introducing me to the list. Though I have not yet posted, I have been following the discussions for a couple of weeks now.

I'd like to write down a few thoughts, post Making Sense Colloquium, and hope they may spark some new tangent discussions.

A lot of my theatre and art work has dealt with the idea that sense as in meaning and sense as in sensation, is inherently tied to a third homonym, at least with the french word "sens" : sense as direction or orientation. This lead me to conceptualize sense as space, space which is not only physical and through which our bodies move, but a heterogeneous space that also includes psychological space, that is, spaces through which our minds move. Sense as meaning and sense as sensation are etymologically derived from the idea of earlier words meaning "to find ones way" or "to orient oneself" (see proto indo-european base *sent-, which means "to go"). So spatiality is extremely important if we want to look at sense holistically.

If both are minds and our body are in sense, that is, if they orient themselves within sense in a holistic manner, then we must think of the mind and body as one entity. I have often used the term "topological body" to refer to this, though it is somewhat misleading. The idea comes from the topology of non-orientable forms in topology, like the mobeius strip and the klein bottle, the definitions of which give us a way of thinking how the outside, physical world, could be continuous to the internal mental world. If one were to stand on a gaint klein bottle's surface, one might get the impression that the ground on which he stands has an other side, below his feet, as it were, when in fact this "other side" is continuous to the "side" he is standing on : the klein bottle only has one side. Likewise, the topological body only has one side. The inside mental space of the subjet extends continuously into the physical world outside. The topological body is thus both mind and body.

In my work with Parabolik Guerilla Theatre, I have often treated the question of the difference between "having sense", that is, merely being determined by the space in which the topological body is embeded, and "making sense", that is actively participating in the constant reorganization of that space. Merleau-Ponty wrote about the difference between parole parlée and parole parlante in this way.  It is possible to "use" language in a non creative way, whereas it is also possible to create through language, to reveal through language something other than what a word means on a merely semiotic level. This creative use of language is poïesis. But this distinction between having sense and making sense extends to areas which we don't usually call language : gestures also adhere to this principle. The body is constantly involved in automatic gestures, it relies on innumerable unconscious gestures that "make" no sense but "have" sense, that is, the body is on constantly decoding sense which is already there, inscribed in the repetitive processes which make up our present, inherited from the past. However, there are ways in which the body can attempt to become poïetic, and take part in new encodings of sense, create new propagating processes, revealing new meanings, new ways to move, new ways to interact with the world (or be the world).

In our practice with Parabolik Guerilla Theatre, Japanese Butoh has been a huge inspiration, and from the very beginning was part of our physical training regimen. Butoh deals with exactly this idea of transcending the usual gestural and postural automatisms that are only decodings of sense. It is and active attempt to not be determined by sense, but actually take part in producing it. The idea of a topological body and of sense as space also ties in with butoh's sense of the body and space, where the exterior and interior are incessantly forced to exchange places. A common interpretation of butoh is that in it's practice, the body no longer moves through space but that the reverse is happening, the space moves through the body.

I could go on and on about these ideas but I'm already rambling. Renate said at Making Sense colloquium to try to keep our posts short, so I'll shut-up for now...


alexander wilson

Alexander Wilson

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://mail.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20101025/b2c8d136/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list